1. says

    New thread in the new year! Thanks to Lynna for all the hard work!

    A few related podcast episodes:

    Decoding the Gurus – “Robert Malone & Peter McCullough: A litany of untruths”:

    Matt and Chris return to the Joe Rogan-verse much quicker than they would have liked to take a critical eye to two recent episodes (6 more hours!!!) offering controversial takes on Covid 19 and the dangers of vaccines. Yes, that’s right more fear mongering, more global conspiracies, and more unrecognised heroes of science that Joe needs to promote to his large audience.In this case, we have Dr. Robert Malone, the *self-proclaimed* inventor of mRNA vaccines, and Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist who was recently sued by his old hospital for using its name when promoting his covid theories. Both figures are well documented promoters of covid misinformation, including in various appearances on extreme right wing conspiracy sites like Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Matt and Chris are no medical experts nor do they play them on podcasts (if you are looking for a point by point technical/medical debunking, we would recommend following the links at the bottom of these show notes). But what they are very familiar with are modern gurus and conspiracy theorists. So in this episode, after twenty plus episodes of calibrating the Gurometer(TM) with known gurus, they take it for a new test with these two maverick doctors. Applying the well-developed science of Gurometry(TM) to a novel dataset. How do they fare? Guess…Honestly, this is probably the darkest and most depressing episode we’ve done. It was not fun and we would really prefer to be talking about something else but here we are. Hopefully we will not be back soon…

    (It’s so, so bad that millions of people are listening to this.)

    Straight White American Jesus – “Weekly Round Up: J6 Past, Present, Future”:

    Brad and Dan begin this J6 anniversary episode by zooming in on certain religious elements manifest at the Insurrection. Dan decodes the various Braveheart references and signs on display, connecting them to a form of Christian nationalist masculinity via work by Kristin Kobes du Mez. Brad talks about how and why the rioters prayed as they crossed every boundary and threshold of the Capitol. It was a way of transforming the space into theirs and transforming them from criminals to God’s warriors. They then discuss what has happened in the year since–pointing to stats of how many Republicans and Evangelicals believe the 2020 election was stolen. This give’s Dan a chance to explain what people are really saying when they repeat the mantra, “Don’t make it political.” The last segment is on what happened on the one-year anniversary of the Insurrection. Brad and Dan analyze reactions from political leaders, religious leaders, and Trump admin figures, showing how the myth of the Big Lie took root and blinded Americans en masse.

    Conspirituality – “86: Charles Eisenstein, New Age Q”:

    Up to this point, we’ve understood Charles Eisenstein as the poet-philosopher of conspirituality, lending his Burning Man ritual workshop chops to the antivax faux-freedom movement. Out of deference to his apparent sensitivity and respectable writing skills, we’ve given him the benefit of the doubt—we even invited him on this show for two episodes to see whether we could find common ground. We didn’t. In our last Bonus episode, Julian tracked how Eisenstein has accelerated and intensified his rhetoric. Today, we’ll see how he’s fortifying his money networks, and starting to say the quiet parts out loud. He’s no longer “just” dog-whistling violence and QAnon. We’re reviewing a recent video he’s co-produced with Onnit multimillionaire and Austin bro-poet Aubrey Marcus. It’s an anime rendition of the ending of his 2013 bestseller, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. In the book, Eisenstein presents “The Gathering of the Tribe” as a kind of personal mythology. As he levels up to the big leagues, this story about belonging to a group of blessed alien shamans sent to wake up humanity carries clear real-world literalness—and a culty vibe. If the high-end video doesn’t convince you, a tape from a hipster New Year’s Eve party in Ithaca NY might do the trick. As he holds guru-court for All the Big Questions, Eisenstein tells an Iraq vet that he has special gifts to deploy against the (fictional) building of COVID concentration camps in Rhode Island. Then he says he hopes the “pedophile elite” will just stop. Sound familiar? Eisenstein’s content is poetic and vague. Its implications are plausibly deniable. It pours out through an endless stream of radiant and inscrutable essay drops. He has mastered the cryptic prompt that either speaks to your soul, to your appetite for disrupting public health, or to your recent tactical training regimen. Who can really tell? His skill is to stand beside and above it all. He can avoid being pinned down. It’s almost as if he’s not really there, but only reflecting the zeitgeist of our broken moment. It’s time to just name him for what he is: New Age Q.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Lychee genome tells a colorful story about a colorful tropical fruit

    The research shows that the lychee tree, Litchi chinensis, was likely domesticated more than once: Wild lychees originated in Yunnan in southwestern China, spread east and south to Hainan Island, and then were domesticated independently in each of these two locations, the analysis suggests.
    In Yunnan, people began cultivating very early-flowering varieties, and in Hainan, late-blooming varieties that bear fruit later in the year. Eventually, interbreeding between cultivars from these two regions led to hybrids, including varieties, like ‘Feizixiao’, that remain extremely popular today.

  3. StevoR says

    Not sure how bad it is but breaking news – already 2 hour old mind :

    & also here via Aussie ABC :

    & BBC :

    Excerpt :

    Tsunami waves caused by a giant underwater volcanic eruption have hit the Pacific country of Tonga.

    Social media footage showed water washing through a church and several homes, and witnesses said ash was falling over the capital, Nuku’alofa. A tsunami warning sent residents scrambling to higher ground. The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano sent shockwaves across the South Pacific. Tonga’s capital lies just 65km north of the volcano.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Another reason for douchebros to get vaccinated and wear masks:

    US fugitive who faked death found alive in Glasgow

    An American fugitive believed to have faked his own death is facing extradition after being arrested in hospital in Glasgow.
    Nicholas Rossi, 34, was wanted by Interpol and faces a charge of rape in Utah in the United States.
    He was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in December with Covid-19 – where he used the alias Arthur Knight.

  5. says

    Guardian – “Runners across island of Ireland pause in memory of Ashling Murphy”:

    Runners across the island of Ireland paused in memory of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy on Saturday, with further vigils organised following the murder of the teacher.

    Irish police are continuing to hunt for the killer of Murphy, who was found dead after going for a run on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore, County Offaly.

    The Garda said it had made “significant progress” in its investigation amid reports detectives had identified a person of interest.

    Gardai said they were not releasing details for operational reasons.

    Park Run runners in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and beyond held moments of silence on Saturday morning for Murphy.

    Hundreds of people also gathered in Cork on Saturday morning for a vigil, with more planned in towns and villages across the weekend.

    A vigil will also be held in London on Saturday afternoon.

    Thousands of people gathered in the late afternoon in Tullamore, Dublin and Belfast on Friday, as Ireland continues to reel from the murder of Murphy, with echoes of the national reckoning that was sparked in the UK last year by the murder of Sarah Everard.

    Events also took place in Belfast, Dublin and other towns and cities across the island of Ireland on Friday.

    The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, has said that the murder has “united the nation in solidarity and revulsion”.

    “No stone will be left unturned in terms of bringing this investigation to a completion and to bring the person responsible for this to justice,” he said on Friday.

    Michelle O’Neill, Stormont’s deputy first minister, said at the vigil in Belfast: “I think the sheer fact that, right across every town, village and county across this island today people are gathering in large numbers to remember Ashling Murphy shows that women have had enough. We are entitled to feel safe, we are entitled to be safe. We are entitled to go for a run. We are entitled to go to work and feel safe, we are entitled to go to the shops and feel safe. I think this is a watershed moment in our society today.”

    The death of Murphy has sparked fresh debate about the safety of women in Ireland, with many asking how such an attack could happen in broad daylight.

    “We, as a society, need to face up to this. There is an epidemic of violence against women. It’s been going on for millennia, quite frankly,” Leo Varadkar, the deputy prime minister, said on Friday.

  6. says

    Hello, Everyone. For the convenience of readers, here are some links back to the previous chapter of this thread. These links are kind of random. Scroll around there to look for more news that may interest you.

    Fox has been selling viewers a non-violent, non-serious Jan. 6, but that sales job is getting harder.

    Followup to comment 3 by Reginald, above.
    Good news: Ohio court nukes GOP House map: ‘When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins’

    ‘Pharma Bro’ Shkreli ordered to pay nearly $65 million, banned for life from pharmaceutical industry

    Alabama coal miners

    Infrastructure actually being repaired!

    SC @2, Thank you as well!

  7. says

    When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced in March last year that he would be sending hundreds of Texas National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, he spurred a wave of posturing from Republican governors over “securing” the border. Following Texas’ lead, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent Florida state law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to Texas. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sent her state’s troops as well — funded by a Tennessee auto scrap billionaire.

    State police deployed in conjunction with the troops have stuffed Texas jails full of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers facing misdemeanor trespassing charges.

    Over time, though, the media attention faded. The politics grew less potent. But Texas’ troops are still there. And things are getting bleak. […]

    Abbott wasn’t shy about the politics of his decision to militarize Texas’ border. The “crisis” at the border, he said upon announcing the program, “continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration.”

    But that’s opened the governor up to accusations that he’s torn up the lives of thousands of guardsmen and women in an attempt to bolster his conservative credentials — particularly with a potentially tough primary election against former Rep. Allen West, who’s also the former Texas GOP chair, coming up in just a few weeks.

    On Tuesday, Abbott said his critics were the ones “playing politics.”

    […] the tide changed dramatically last month with an investigation from the Army Times.

    The investigation revealed that four soldiers tied to Operation Lonestar had taken their lives in the prior two months, including one soldier whose hardship release request was denied within days of him taking his own life.

    On top of the spate of suicides — there’s been another death and suicide attempt in the weeks since — the Army Times investigation, from reporter Davis Winkie, shined a light on what Winkie called a “morale crisis” among soldiers deployed with the operation.

    Operation Lonestar began as a volunteer operation, but in September and October, the governor involuntarily activated around 4,000 troops, the Army Times reported, and brought the total number of Texas Military Department personnel at the border to 6,500.

    The massive, mandatory movement of troops has led to problems, including extremely short notice before indefinite deployments, “numerous” pay issues like late and missing paychecks. A recent morale survey acknowledged the “austere environment” where troops are being forced to live — read: super-cramped bunks and reports of inadequate supplies.

    Around the same time as the involuntary deployments, the Texas Guard slashed its tuition assistance program by roughly half — rubbing salt on the wound as the state spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the border deployment.

    As Operation Lonestar’s troubles come increasingly into public light, its participants are finding their voices as well, and it’s not pretty. […] “Our entire unit has caught covid,” one post Thursday read. […]

    All of Texas’ Democratic congressional delegation on Thursday called for an inspector general’s investigation of the mission. And U.S. Northern Command, which runs a separate federal mission at the border, is pursuing its own investigation.[…]

    Then, on Thursday, a state judge in Austin dealt a blow to the operation’s legal premise, saying that the misdemeanor trespassing arrest of an Ecuadorian asylum seeker, Jesús Guzmán Curipoma, was unconstitutional. Guzman Curipoma’s attorneys had argued that the state operation violated the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause — the federal government enforces immigration laws — and said afterward that the ruling “sets a clear pathway for everybody arrested under Operation Lone Star to challenge their arrests.” […]

    Abbott’s deployment of the Texas National Guard to the border is a disaster.

  8. says

    CNN – “DirecTV to sever ties with OAN and drop the right-wing conspiracy channel later this year”:

    One America News, the right-wing conspiracy channel favored by former President Donald Trump, will be dropped later this year by DirecTV, a spokesperson for the television carrier said Friday evening.

    The move will deal a significant blow to the fringe outlet. Not only will OAN be removed from the millions of households that use DirecTV as a television provider, it will also suffer a major hit to its revenue.

    It is unknown what proportion of the channel’s revenue currently comes from DirecTV or how many households it will reach once DirecTV stops carrying it. But the network’s website only lists a few other national carriers, Verizon FiOS most prominently among them.

    In a statement, a DirecTV spokesperson told CNN, “We informed Herring Networks that, following a routine internal review, we do not plan to enter into a new contract when our current agreement expires.”

    Bloomberg News, which broke the story, reported that the contract expires in early April. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that date to CNN.

    Through the years, OAN has promoted conspiracy theories and outright lies on a number of issues, including the results of the 2020 presidential election and the coronavirus pandemic. Trump favored the network because it was willing to advance his lies.

    The move by DirecTV to sever ties comes amid a nationwide reckoning about the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.

    The decision also comes after significant controversy following Reuters’s story, which reported that AT&T played a key role in OAN’s founding….

  9. says

    Wisconsin lawmaker says mitigating COVID-19 is impossible—for the most ridiculous reason yet

    […] As for the vaccine—I got all my shots. But, sadly, there’s no immunity—artificial or otherwise—against the goofball gormlessness of the Republican Party.

    Yes, the party that rallied over the sacred right of Christian bakers to keep their bigotry alive and well is now poised to tell the state’s thousands of other business owners that they have no right to extend that same courtesy to their employees and customers. Because the baby Jesus cries whenever a gay couple carbo-loads on wedding cake, but the sound of thousands of unvaxxed fools gasping for air like beached carp is as soothing as an Irish lullaby.

    The cheese-besotted chodes in the Wisconsin Republican Party are currently floating a bill that would ban state businesses from requiring their customers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Because, you know, they’re so pro-life.

    If these shambolic future corpses can’t get their giant muffin at Perkins without proving they’re not billowing viral flesh-bags, why the fuck did we even bother to invade Iraq to protect our freedoms?

    But why even worry about the virus? After all, it’s invisible! Here’s state Rep. Treig Pronschinske […] arguing that there’s no point in trying to stop the virus because, well, you can’t see it. And yet somehow the GOP’s invisible god is going to protect them from the grisliest possible outcomes. [video is available at the link]

    PRONSCHINSKE: “So you ask what are we going to do to stop the spread of the pandemic, and, you know, you can’t see the virus. You can’t see anything. How are you going do it? How can you stop it? How? You physically cannot see the virus. You don’t know if it’s in this room or it’s outside or if it even exists right now in here. You have no clue. How are you going to stop that?”

    Oh, dear God, take me now. But don’t smite me with COVID-19. I don’t want to be in the same waiting room as these pestilent [doofuses].

    Granted, the omicron variant has changed the game somewhat as breakthrough infections are on the rise, even among the boosted. But that doesn’t mean the vaccinated have the same chance of catching and spreading omicron as the unvaxxed. They don’t. Also, maybe some business owners want to be real Christians by encouraging their customers to take lifesaving measures against a deadly pathogen. Seems like a worthier endeavor than trying to turn gay people straight by denying them pastries. […]

    Of course, Pronschinske doesn’t see it that way. To him, the current moment evokes the brutal struggles of the civil rights era, when Black people were discriminated against for being Black—not, to be clear, because they didn’t feel like taking an extra trip to Walgreens. […]

    “That’s a concern, looking at that side of businesses being able to make a choice,” Pronschinske said. “But when we look at grocery stores or medical facilities, these are essential things that people need to, you know, go into and it would be horrible if, say, all grocery stores would say you have to be vaccinated.”

    Would it be horrible, though? Is it any more horrible than telling people with syphilis to stay out of the red-light district until their antibiotic regimen is completed? […]

    More at the link, including a vintage photo in which an entire conservative family is wearing masks, with the caption, “HOMOSEXUAL DISEASES THREATEN AMERICAN FAMILIES.”

  10. tomh says

    A Wisconsin judge suddenly discovers that, despite years of use, ballot drop boxes are actually unlawful.

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinal
    Absentee ballot drop boxes can’t be used in Wisconsin any longer, a Waukesha County judge rules
    Patrick Marley / January 13, 2022

    MADISON – A Waukesha County judge ruled Thursday that absentee ballot drop boxes can’t be used in Wisconsin, potentially upending aspects of the spring elections and the fall’s high-profile contests for governor and U.S. Senate.

    After hearing three hours of arguments, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren determined state law allows absentee ballots to be returned in person or by mail — but not in a ballot drop box.

    Drop boxes have long been available in some Wisconsin communities, but their use expanded greatly in 2020 when absentee voting exploded because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 500 of them were available during the presidential election, according to a database compiled by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

    Many of the ballot drop boxes in Wisconsin are tamper proof, under 24-hour camera surveillance and in fire stations, libraries or other government offices. Those drop boxes can no longer be used, but voters will still be able to drop ballots into less secure blue postal boxes that are on street corners around the state.

    Meanwhile, Republicans who control the state Legislature have been separately trying to block the use of drop boxes by forcing the Elections Commission to adopt formal rules on the matter by next month. If the commission were to do that, the lawmakers could swiftly block the rules.

  11. says

    SC @16, that’s good news. And about time. DirectTV subscribers were supporting OAN even if they did not want that channel, and even if they never watched it.

  12. says

    CNN – “India’s Hindu extremists are calling for genocide against Muslims. Why is little being done to stop them?”:

    At a conference in India last month, a Hindu extremist dressed head-to-toe in the religion’s holy color, saffron, called on her supporters to kill Muslims and “protect” the country.

    “If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill 2 million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party, according to a video of the event.

    Her words and calls for violence from other religious leaders were met with a roar of applause from the large audience, a video from the three-day conference in the northern Indian city of Haridwar shows.

    But across India, people were outraged. Nearly a month on, many are still furious at the lack of government response or arrests over the comments, which they say highlights a worsening climate for the country’s Muslims.

    Analysts say the Hindu Mahasabha is at the tip of a broader trend in India which has seen an alarming rise in support for extremist Hindu nationalist groups since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power nearly eight years ago.

    Although these groups aren’t directly associated with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his own Hindu nationalist agenda, and the lack of repercussions for these groups’ previous vitriolic comments, has given them tacit support, making them even more brazen, analysts say.

    Analysts fear this rise poses a serious danger to minorities, especially Muslims — and worry it may only get worse as several Indian states head to the polls in the coming months.

    “What makes the Hindu Mahasabha dangerous,” said Gilles Verniers, an assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University near India’s capital, New Delhi, “is that they have been waiting for a moment like this in decades.”

    Founded in 1907 during British rule at a time of growing conflict between Muslims and Hindus in the country, the Hindu Mahasabha is one of India’s oldest political organizations.

    The group didn’t support British rule, but it didn’t back India’s freedom movement either, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was particularly tolerant of Muslims. Even now, some members of the group worship his assassin, Nathuram Godse.

    The Hindu Mahasabha’s vision, according to the group’s official website, is to declare India the “National Home of the Hindus.” The website says if it takes power, it will not hesitate to “force” the migration of India’s Muslims to neighboring Pakistan and vows to reform the country’s education system to align it with their version of Hinduism.

    With its controversial campaigns and ideology, Hindu Mahasabha has always been a marginal political force. The last time the group had a presence in Parliament was in 1991.

    But according to Verniers, their “strength is not to be measured in electoral terms.” And in the past eight years since Modi came to power, they appear to have expanded in numbers and influence based on the size and frequency of their meetings, he said.

    While the group does not publicly disclose how many members it has, Verniers said they are “comfortably in the tens of thousands.”

    Hindu Mahasabha targets rural communities in northern states, where there is a large BJP presence, encouraging them to vote for parties that align with their Hindu-nationalist ideology, including Modi’s BJP, Verniers said.

    Modi, in turn, has publicly honored the Hindu Mahasabha’s late leader, Veer Savarkar, for “his bravery” and “emphasis on social reform.”

    And as Hindu Mahasabha has grown in recent years, it has become more outspoken.

    Hindu Mahasabha isn’t the only right-wing Hindu nationalist group to espouse violent sentiment toward liberals and minorities — including India’s 200 million Muslims, who make up 15% of the country’s 1.3 billion population.

    At last month’s conference, several speakers called on India’s Hindus to “defend” the religion with weapons. Another called for the “cleansing” of India’s minorities, according to video from the event.

    But according to Verniers, Hindu Mahasbha one of the largest right-wing political groups aiming to make India the land of the Hindus.

    And while the group’s campaigns and ideas are decades old, they’re more bold about them now.

    The reason extremist groups appear to be on the rise is clear, according to experts: they have impunity and support.

    India prohibits hate speech under several sections of its penal code, including a section which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious acts” intended to insult religious beliefs.

    According to lawyer Vrinda Grover, any group inciting violence is barred under Indian law.

    “Police, states and the government are responsible to ensure (inciting violence) doesn’t happen,” she said. “But the state, through its inaction, is actually permitting these groups to function, while endangering Muslims who are the targets.”

    The BJP has its roots in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right wing-Hindu group that counts Modi among its members. Many RSS members are adherents of the Hindutva ideology that the Hindu Mahasabha preach — to make India the land of the Hindus.

    In December, crowds of India’s Hindu-right confronted Muslims praying on the streets in the city of Gurugram, just outside of Delhi. They prevented Muslims from praying, while shouting slogans and carrying banners in protest.

    “It is an electoral strategy,” said Verniers, the political scientist. “Create religious tension, activate religious polarization and consolidate on the Hindu vote.”

    Grover, the lawyer, said criminal laws are “weaponized” in India, adding anyone who challenges those in power “face the wrath of the law.”

    “Muslim lives in India are demonized,” she said. “The Indian state is in serious crisis.”…

    More at the link.

  13. says

    Students have a lot to deal with in today’s day and age: surviving a global pandemic, going to school among anti-mask protests, and big-picture polarization among political parties they mostly can’t participate in yet. Structural and latent racism and xenophobia continue to infiltrate classrooms, too, as though young people don’t have enough hardships. One example comes to us from Mill Middle School in the Williamsville Central School District in New York state, where startlingly racist remarks were part of a Spanish class homework assignment, as reported by local outlet WGRZ.

    A sixth-grade homework assignment went viral online after parents became concerned about translations included in the worksheet. Among 10 translations, the homework asked students to translate phrases like “You (politely) are pretty and American” and “You (friendly) are Mexican and ugly” from English into Spanish. In a word: Yikes!

    […] Sadly, there are tons of comparable examples when it comes to our school system perpetuating structural racism and bias. Here are just a handful of those that we’ve covered here at Daily Kos: An assignment at an Ohio middle school once asked students to rank people based on demographics like sexual orientation and faith. A charter school in Texas asked students to describe “positive” aspects of life as an enslaved person. Similarly, a teacher in Wisconsin asked students to describe how they would “punish” enslaved people. In Texas, 90 high school freshmen once received a disturbing homework question about rape. […]


    More at the link.

  14. says

    […] Virginia elected Republican Glenn Youngkin, who’s set to take office today and has pledged to immediately lift the Commonwealth’s mask mandate in schools, because the pandemic apparently went away without telling anyone.

    Also, there’s a bill before the House of Delegates (it’s like a house of representatives, only more quaint), introduced by freshman Republican Del. Wren Williams, that would ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” and also make sure the schools teach American history right.

    One part of the proposed bill, HB 781, drew a whole lot of snarking on the Twitters Thursday, because it mandates that schools should ensure that all students “demonstrate an understanding of”

    The founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10 and 51, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States. [emphasis added]

    Williams, a Trumpy Republican who believes the Great Man [Hair Furor] won the 2020 election, was derided for that ridiculous error, since of course Lincoln actually held a series of debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas, a white supremacist who believed slavery should continue to be allowed if white people wanted it. Lincoln did not debate abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery himself and was one of the most well-known opponents of America’s founding shame. If he had debated Lincoln for hours and hours, the two would have been saying “I entirely concur with my worthy opponent” a lot.

    Not surprisingly, a lot of folks on Twitter figured that maybe Williams just liked Donald Trump so much that Mr. Williams simply considers Frederick Douglass “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more,” and did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican? Not many people know that.

    Friday morning, the Virginia Division of Legal Services took the blame for the error, releasing a statement explaining that it had mistakenly added the error to the bill during the drafting process, “following receipt of a historically accurate request from the office of Delegate Wren Williams.”

    So don’t you damn liberal progressive America haters go calling Wren Williams a birdbrain over that.

    Instead, you can call him a birdbrain over this: if Virginia teachers actually teach the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, or the Declaration of Independence too accurately, they may run the risk of getting fired for running afoul of Section A of HR 781 instead.

    That’s because, like all the other copy-pasted, probably unconstitutional bans on teaching “divisive concepts” and “critical race theory” in schools, the bill prohibits teaching the concept that “one race, religion, ethnicity, or sex is inherently superior to another race, religion, ethnicity, or sex,” or that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race, religion, ethnicity, or sex.”

    Now, we certainly don’t think schools should teach kids to believe those things, either, but the problem comes in Section E2 of the bill, which makes clear that “no school board or employee thereof” is allowed to “teach or incorporate into any course or class any divisive concept.”

    As damnliberal history professors like Seth Cotlar Of Willamette University insist on pointing out, the very texts the bill says all Virginia kids should be familiar with are freaking full of divisive concepts. For starters, there’s that Declaration of Independence with its complaint that King George III has

    excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

    That certainly seems to say that one race is inherently superior to another, now doesn’t it?

    The bill doesn’t specify which excerpts from Democracy in America should be taught, but we’d assume teachers using Tocqueville would want to avoid passages like this, from Chapter 18, which sounds pretty darn divisive in its discussion of the “three races” to be found in America.

    Among these widely differing families of men, the first that attracts attention, the superior in intelligence, in power, and in enjoyment, is the white, or European, the MAN pre-eminently so called, below him appear the Negro and the Indian. These two unhappy races have nothing in common, neither birth, nor features, nor language, nor habits. Their only resemblance lies in their misfortunes. Both of them occupy an equally inferior position in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and if their wrongs are not the same, they originate from the same authors.

    Good heavens! That awfully divisive French guy isn’t merely suggesting that white people are superior, he’s also saying America is a systematically racist place!

    In the paragraphs that follow this passage, Tocqueville continues that point at length, blaming white people for the oppression of Black people and Native Americans in a way that seems calculated to make the reader “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race, religion, ethnicity, or sex,” another divisive concept.

    It’s such an acute depiction of racist oppression that we have no doubt it could make Virginia kids feel very down on America, perhaps illegally so. […]

    And then there’s the actual Stephen Douglas, whose opinions in the debates with Lincoln are plenty divisive, too. Douglas mocked Lincoln for believing

    that the negro was born his equal and yours, and that he was endowed with equality by the Almighty, and that no human law can deprive him of these rights which were guarantied to him by the Supreme ruler of the Universe. Now, I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended the negro to be the equal of the white man. (“Never, never.”) If he did, he has been a long time demonstrating the fact. (Cheers.)

    For thousands of years the negro has been a race upon the earth, and during all that time, in all latitudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been inferior to the race which he has there met. He belongs to an inferior race, and must always occupy an inferior position. (“Good,” “that’s so,” &c.)

    Thank goodness Wren Williams is there to protect innocent Virginia schoolchildren from the divisive ideas that Wren Williams wants all Virginia schoolchildren to be familiar with, the end.


  15. says

    Novak Djokovic has had his visa to stay in Australia revoked — not once but twice. After a successful appeal of his apprehension at the border by authorities, our immigration minister has affirmed the initial refusal. The world’s No. 1 men’s singles tennis player is out of the Australian Open (at least for now).

    It’s a move that the local papers have claimed will “undoubtedly prove popular with the Australian public.”

    So, Novak. Mate. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, hey?

    Australians may well be exhausted from two years of the pandemic and sick and weakened by a current mass infection of Covid-19, and yet many of us retain enough energy to be thrilled by this news.

    The hashtag #DjokovicOut has been a trending topic here for days. A poll conducted by a local media organization reported a staggering 83 percent of 60,000 respondents were in favor of Djokovic’s booting. Two major network news anchors were caught on hot mics using at least 10 expletives to discuss the issue. This would usually provoke some social sanction, but given that the expletives in question were used to describe Djokovic, both news anchors have since become national heroes. […]

    an otherwise skilled sportsman has made himself a cackhanded symbol of everything presently enraging Australians. His first mistake was to align himself with the kinds of ideas Australians see in online misinformation campaigns from the anti-vax movement.

    This is a man who once self-diagnosed a gluten intolerance by gripping some bread. He’s made claims that polluted water can be cleansed with the mind. He declared he was “opposed to vaccination” back in April 2020, before a vaccine was even available for the coronavirus.

    Our social tolerance is also dwindling for those whose approach to public health is seen as selfish. (An extraordinary 90 percent of Australians are fully vaccinated.) Sports commentators reminded readers that when Naomi Osaka became unwell in 2021, Djokovic insisted that the press appearances she resisted were “part of the sport” — yet he’s conducted his current Australian misadventure around his own preferences, not his obligations to society. […]

    to understand the rage unleashed by Djokovic, one has to recognize the similarities between his behavior and that of our government. First, there is their shared failure to treat the threat of the virus’s transmissibility seriously. Then there are the obfuscations, contradictory statements, blame shifting and inherent belief that rules only apply to other people, which characterize months of government mismanagement of the crisis. There’s a familiar pattern of government miscommunication and ineptitude unfolding around Djokovic that sadly reminds us of our brief and squandered advantage over the virus. […]

    New York Times link

  16. says

    Dear Lynna, OM, I like your comments, they are insightful and pointed. I went to your site . You are a skilled artisan in many media. However, I wanted to read more of your writings, but your blog link won’t open. If there is a way to read more of your comments please provide a link
    (And just another opportunity for others to keep up on space exploration, here is the link again: )

  17. says

    shermanj, I apologize for the problems in accessing the blog portion of that website. I am having major difficulties with that site. I am not sure when, or if, I will be able to fix it.

  18. says

    SC @24, “The vote counter is more important than the candidate.” Trump is so blatantly a scam artist, a con man! No doubt, he’ll say the same sort of thing at his rally (covid super spreader event) in Arizona tonight. And then his cult followers will double down on installing unethical “vote counters.”

  19. says

    Yikes. Not a good move on the part of a judge in Kentucky:

    One Kentucky judge has found a special way to make his mark on the military’s sexual assault problem: He’s trying to force a man convicted of sexual assault to join the military.

    […] according to a RAND Corporation report. “Estimates for sexual harassment are one in four women and one in 16 men.” It’s a problem that’s drawn a lot of attention, though a recent push to change how crimes are handled in the military got watered down in Congress.

    But when Brandon Scott Price was convicted of second-degree sexual assault, Judge Thomas Wingate gave him a suspended sentence, under orders to enlist.

    “If you don’t enroll in 30 days, you can report to the Franklin County Regional Jail,” Wingate told him. “You are under the gun, young man. You gotta do it.”

    t’s bad enough on the surface: Let’s send a sexual predator to a setting that has a major sexual assault problem. It gets worse.

    Price’s conviction stems from an assault on an inmate at that same Franklin County Regional Jail, where Price worked as a guard. When a female inmate needed medical treatment for high blood pressure, he “transported (the inmate) alone, in violation of Jail policy and industry standards and practices,” to the emergency room. While the two were at the hospital, Price insinuated that he might be able to affect parole board decisions and made “sexually-charged comments” to her. Then, while she was shackled in the back of the van back to the jail, Price pulled the van over, “turned around and told (the inmate) if she performed oral sex on him, he would talk to the KDOC employee he knew about getting her released from jail earlier,” and assaulted her. While she was shackled and under his control and custody as a jail guard.

    This is who Judge Thomas Wingate wants to send to a setting in which one in 16 women are sexually assaulted even without the addition of convicted sexual predators.

    The good news is this: “Without a waiver, Army Regulation 610-210—which covers Army recruiting guidelines—states that an applicant is not eligible for enlistment if they ‘As a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, is ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States,’” Task and Purpose reports. “While these determinations continue to occur, they carry no legal weight and only serve to further propagate another military myth. Still, that hasn’t stopped judges and lawmakers from proposing military service as an alternative to jail time. Last December, a Florida state senator proposed a law that would allow people convicted of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses to enlist rather than go to jail.”

    But the fact that a judge would think this was an appropriate recommendation is yet another indictment of the so-called criminal justice system—and particularly the role of elected judges—in this country. Wingate faced no opposition in his last election.


  20. says

    Fort Worth Star-Telegram – “Colleyville synagogue held hostage during livestream service, police negotiating with man”:

    Authorities northeast of Fort Worth are negotiating with a man who has apparently taken people hostage at a Colleyville synagogue during services. It is unclear if anyone is injured and how the man may be armed.

    The service was being livestreamed on Facebook, and the live recording has continued to capture muffled audio of what sounds like negotiations with police.

    Colleyville police said it is conducting SWAT operations in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road, the location of Congregation Beth Israel.

    All residents in the immediate area are being evacuated, and people are asked to avoid the area.

    Commenters on a Facebook livestream of a service at the synagogue say a man there is holding people hostage. An angry man can be heard ranting on the ongoing livestream, at times talking about religion. The video does not show what is happening in the building.

    The man has repeatedly mentioned his sister and Islam and used profanities. At one point, another voice can be heard apparently talking on the phone to police. The man has said a few times he didn’t want anyone hurt, and he has mentioned his children.

    He also said repeatedly he believes he is going to die.

    It’s unclear how many people are in the synagogue. Commenters on the livestream are offering prayers for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. More than 8,000 viewers are watching the livestream.

    Shabbat morning service began at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to the synagogue’s calendar.

    Colleyville is about 17 miles northeast of downtown Fort Worth.

    This is a developing story and will be updated.

  21. says

    Not really feeling sorry for Prince Andrew.

    Stripped of his scarlet tunics and white plumes, his military titles and honorary patronages, and cast aside by his lifelong protector — his mother, his queen — Britain’s Prince Andrew finds himself in the royal wilderness, and courtiers say there is no way back.

    His friendships with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, both convicted of sexually exploiting teenage girls, have created the biggest crisis for the House of Windsor since the death of Princess Diana. The royal family has stood by Andrew for more than a decade since the first scandalous headlines emerged, while the prince repeatedly denied all accusations. But after a judge in New York ruled this past week that a sexual abuse lawsuit against him can move forward, the palace made clear that he will fight this alone, “as a private citizen.”

    He will remain a prince, yes — ninth in line to the throne. He’s still Duke of York, for now. But without the pomp and circumstance, without the military finery in which he has swaddled himself. Speeches, ribbon cuttings, parades, trade missions abroad and applause? Officially gone, alongside his use of the honorific “His Royal Highness.”

    […] While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were freed of constraints on making outside money when they gave up their royal roles, Andrew’s fall doesn’t leave him with much leverage for that.

    Palace watchers envision a kind of 21st-century banishment, an “internal exile” for the 61-year-old duke.
    He may be allowed to remain at Royal Lodge, where he lives with his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. With 30 rooms, including seven bedrooms, it’s hardly a bad place to have to hole up. Even as he lay low there the past couple years, he would continue to drive his $100,000 Range Rover hybrid over to Windsor Castle, just three miles away, to ride horses on the grounds or have lunch with his mum.

    […] speculated that Andrew may soon sell his ski chalet in the Swiss Alps to help fund mounting legal costs. “I can’t see the queen digging her hand into her pocket” on this, he said. [photo of Swiss chalet is available at the link]

    Regarding the lawsuit, legal experts contend that Andrew may have no real choice but to settle the civil case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, who says she was trafficked to Andrew on three occasions, starting when she was 17.

    […] Nick Goldstone, a legal commentator and head of dispute resolution at the Ince law firm in London, noted that while English law relies primarily on written witness statements, U.S. courts tend to involve videotaped depositions. If the lawsuit proceeded toward a fall court date, Andrew could soon find himself being pressed by lawyers, under oath, about the most intimate details of his private life. “A grueling experience that I do not think Andrew would want to experience,” Goldstone said.

    […] Nigel Cawthorne, author of “Prince Andrew: Epstein, Maxwell and the Palace,” said Andrew could try to use the queen’s jubilee as justification for settling. “He could say, ‘We will settle this, because it’s overshadowing my mother’s jubilee.’ He has the perfect excuse. But the British public will ask, ‘Where does the 5 million pound [settlement] come from? Is it out of your pocket?’ ”

    […] Giuffre said: “My goal has always been to show that the rich and powerful are not above the law & must be held accountable. I do not walk this path alone, but alongside countless other survivors of sexual abuse & trafficking.” […]

    Washington Post link

  22. says

    ABC correspondent: “One suspect has taken the rabbi and three others hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, TX. The hostage-taker is claiming to be armed and says his sister is Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in New York of trying to kill US military personnel”

  23. says

    CNN isn’t saying this (yet?), but the ABC correspondent, Aaron Katersky, is continuing to report that the Colleyville hostage-taker claims to be Aafia Siddiqui’s brother Muhammed. If the WP page is correct, she’s in prison in Fort Worth and he lives in Dallas.

    From the WP page:

    Aafia Siddiqui was born in Karachi, Pakistan, to Muhammad Salay Siddiqui, a British-trained neurosurgeon, and Ismet (née Faroochi), an Islamic teacher, social worker and charity volunteer. She belongs to the Urdu-speaking Muhajir, Deobandi community of Karachi. She was raised in an observant Muslim household, although her parents combined devotional Islam with their resolve to understand and use technological advances in science.

    Ismet Siddiqui was prominent in political and religious circles, teaching classes on Islam wherever she lived, founding a United Islamic Organization, and serving as a member of Pakistan’s parliament. Her support for strict Islam in the face of feminist opposition to his Hudood Ordinances drew the attention of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq who appointed her to a Zakat Council. Siddiqui is the youngest of three siblings. Her brother, Muhammad, studied to become an architect in Houston, Texas, while her sister, Fowzia, is a Harvard-trained neurologist who worked at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and taught at Johns Hopkins University before she returned to Pakistan.

    She’s a “neuroscientist with degrees from MIT and Brandeis University.” Her mother was like a Pakistani Phyllis Schlafly.

  24. says

    Guardian – “Protesters rally across UK against police and crime bill”:

    Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across the UK to rally against the police and crime bill, which is reaching its final stages in parliament.

    The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, sections of which have been condemned by human rights activists as an attack on the right to protest, will be voted on in the House of Lords on Monday.

    Hundreds of “kill the bill” protesters rallied in London on Saturday, while demonstrations also took place in cities including Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Plymouth.

    Addressing the crowd in Parliament Square, the Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti said the bill’s anti-protest provisions “represent the greatest attack on peaceful dissent in living memory”. “This rightwing, authoritarian government used to encourage pro-Brexit demos and statue defenders when it suited them,” she said.

    Chakrabarti accused the government of hypocrisy, saying it “bangs on about free speech and whinges about cancel culture” and other countries “where fundamental rights are under attack” while clamping down on rights in the UK. “Free speech is a two-way street. And you know what? The ultimate cancel culture, it doesn’t come with a tweet – it comes with a police baton and a prison sentence for nonviolent dissent,” she said.

    The bill’s anti-protest measures grant police the power to ban marches and demonstrations that they consider to be “seriously disruptive”, including those deemed too noisy. Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities would effectively be criminalised by measures against residing on land without authorisation, while police would also be granted expanded stop and search powers and sentences of up to 10 years could be handed down for damage to memorials or statues.

    Labour members in the House of Lords will oppose last-minute amendments to the bill, it was announced on Friday. The amendments added in November, which focus on new powers to control protests, include new offences for “locking on” – where protesters attach themselves to objects or each other – and would give police the power to ban named individuals from protesting.

  25. says

    Wajahat Ali tweeted: “You’re about to hear some ugly & vicious Islamophobia & anti-Muslim bigotry this weekend from elected officials, commentators and even mainstream media. Hope I’m wrong. People will use it to divide Jewish and Muslim communities for their political agenda. Don’t fall for it.”

  26. says

    Amarnath Amarasingam:

    Confirmed from a few different sources now:

    The suspect seems to be calling for Aafia’s release but it is NOT her actual brother Muhammad Siddiqui.

    Early reporting seems to have heard the suspect calling for the release of his “sister” (in Islam) and got confused.

    Hmm. Katersky’s tweets are still up and haven’t been updated. He is demanding her release in any event.

  27. says

    Dear Lynna, OM,
    Thanks for letting us know about your blog. Don’t worry, you provide a lot of great insights here and I hope your books and art sell well.
    RE: the brittish Andrew formerly known as prince? I hear he’s been nominated for an award as ‘upper middle-class twit of the year’ (Monty Python nominated him). Why do so many “toxic redneck wasps” think that they can force themselves (physically or ideologically) on everyone? Rhetorical question, we know why, it’s their right to abuse others!?

  28. says

    The Daily Beast tweeted: “UPDATE: Aafia Siddiqui’s biological brother, Muhammad, is not the person holding hostages inside the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, his lawyer has told The Daily Beast.”

  29. says

    Katersky: “An attorney who represents the actual brother of Aafia Siddiqui told ABC News his client has been fielding calls from law enforcement and assuring them he is not involved in the hostage taking and has been trying to free his sister through peaceful means.”

    The hostage situation is ongoing, and no injuries have been reported.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    Science Fiction author Rob Goulart has died at 89.
    He wrote several parodies in the late 1970s that I remember well.

  31. StevoR says

    @28. Lynna, OM : So the military is meant to be the same as jail or just slightly better? Is it just me or is there something telling in that? Serving your country in a military capacity is punishment. Wonder how the military feels about this sort of thing?

  32. StevoR says

    Wikipedia has the latest news – seems its now over :

    After more than 12 hours, the four hostages were freed and the attacker was confirmed to be dead.

    Citing among others :

    Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted about 9:35 p.m. that all hostages are safe and out of a Colleyville synagogue after a loud bang and gunfire were heard. U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne told a Star-Telegram reporter in a text that the hostage-taker is dead. A loud bang followed by what sounded like gunfire was heard about 9:12 p.m. Saturday outside the Colleyville synagogue where a hostage situation has been ongoing for hours. This developing story will be updated.

    & also from wikipedia :

    Apparently “..her case has been called a “flashpoint of Pakistani-American tensions”,[15] and “one of the most mysterious in a secret war dense with mysteries”.

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